Holidays in Santa Cruz – 1.

On the 20th I finally took the taxi and left the mountaintop behind. I asked for a big cab at the reception (because of my bike box) of the Observatory, but I did not expect a mini van :D The driver was very nice, we talked about cycling almost all the way down. I went directly to my apartment (La Fuente), where I got the keys, but as I had to wait till noon before I could move in, I decided to go for a short walk in the city.

20101020santacruz

Santa Cruz de La Palma is really nice, I am not a huge fan of the Spanish (or Latin) style, but these small streets with the wooden balconies are lovely. As the Queen Elizabeth was in town (I mean, in the port), the old part of the city was flooded by mostly old European and Japanese tourists… In theory, it was only 26°C (in the shadow of course), but after the climate of the Observatory (at 2150-2350 m ASL), I was really sweating like a horse down at sea level. I had lunch at the new port building on the terrace of a nice modern pizzeria (where all the pizzas were named after old Hollywood movies), then I walked back to the La Fuente. My apartment is on the 4th floor, which has pros and cons. First of all, I have a view to the sea, and the sunrise (which is just awesome), but I had to carry up the 32 kg bike box in the narrow staircase, which was quite a difficult job… Anyway, it has a very good price/quality ratio.

On Thursday morning I packed my arm and knee warmers, a wind west, and a cap into my small backpack, I filled its hydration pack and two bottles with Isostar, and after putting on some sunscreen I went out to climb the highest peak of the world’s steepest island. By bike, from sea level. (You can see the details of the ride here.)

20101021roquetrack

When I left Santa Cruz, the Sun was very strong, so I started to worry a bit that leaving the rest of the sunscreen at the apartment might turn out to be not my best idea ever, but then I entered the cloud layer at around 800 m ASL, and I spent almost all the rest of the ride in there… Around 400 m ASL small dogs started to follow me while barking loud just 10-20 cm from my feet, but luckily it was still a bit too early for lunch :) (Normally dogs are not a big deal, as I can go faster than them, but not uphills on a 8% slope…) This was a much harder climb than the on on Tenerife – almost as long, but significantly steeper. It consists of three parts: 33.62 km @ 6.8% from 5 m to 2285 m, then 5.20 km slight up and downs (average @ -2.7%), and finally 3.67 km @ 7.2% from 2147 m to 2411 m (with sections as steep as 11% at the last hundreds of meters – which really did hurt).  I saw the Sun again at ~2200 ASL meter for a couple of minutes while I was pedaling up through the area of the Observatory, but that’s all – the peak (Roque de Los Muchachos) was in the clouds again already by the time I arrived. It took me almost 3 hours and 20 minutes to ride from sea level to the top of La Palma.

20101021roque

Before I started the descent I put the arm and knee warmers on, plus the cap under the helmet, because the weather was quite chilly up there. Unfortunately it did not improve on the way down, but it started to be quite wet at around 1200 m ASL – which gave me a bit of a trouble in one of the many corners, but my experience (unclipping the SPD shoes when realizing that breaking is not effective enough for such a steep curve) saved the day for me :) To put the icing on the cake, it started to rain cats and dogs (with really big, but luckily quite warm drops) at around 400 m ASL, which lasted till I reached sea level. The road turned into a river almost immediately, so I had to be extremely careful, because 180° turns on flowing water are not that easy. I got completely soaked, I have never been so wet on the bike before. As soon as I arrived home (and took a shower) I put my cycling shoes out into the window, and it was still a bit wet after drying for 20 hours there. So all I want to say that it was really like a tropical rain storm.

Today I dod not do anything special, but not doing anything was really nice :) And I am still shocked by the fact that it is 23°C at 11 PM :D

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